No one would accuse me of being unappreciative of my home state, I think. But when the light is clear and everything looks especially sharp, I can’t help thinking of it as a Colorado morning.
This may date back to a trip my family took in 1959 from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to Estes Park and on up into the Rockies. The light was ecstatically different on those cold mountain mornings when all the cousins—Ricky, David, Dickie, Johnnie (that’s me), and little Ruthy— marched through the woods with our cheap, newly-purchased bamboo fishing rods to a fast-rushing stream four feet across where there were alleged to be some trout. I had no clue how to cast a fly—I was six years old! Neither did any of the grown-ups, as it turned out.
But the morning air was spectacular up there, and also out in the meadows, where dew sometimes glistened on the still-shadowy grasses.
This morning, things in my backyard were bathed in that same heaven clarity. I took one look and knew I had to get out there right away. I pulled the “cheep chower” out of the beds by the steps, filled all three bird-feeders, loaded the bird bath with water, cut down the volunteer locust tree that had reached a height of five feet in the course of the summer, watered the tomato plants in the front yard, and poured a teapot full of boiling water onto an anthill. (Cruel!)
While watering a few flowers out front I stopped to admire the morning glory volunteers that are finally making their way up the trellis. And here it is, State Fair Time. I don't think they retain that Heavenly Blue color when they self-seed from year to year, but regress to some other, hardly less heavenly hue.
A few minutes later I was back in the back yard, transfixed with admiration for the nobly struggling black-eyed susans—a paralysis that was only relieved by the brief surge of distress that arose when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed how much of the serviceberry bush we planted this summer had been chomped down by littler critters. Moving on, I admired the yellow blossom on a plant we bought at a nursery sale to benefit the bee population, the name of which I’ve since forgotten. [See photo]
I had been feeling glum earlier in the week, I don’t know why. I seldom feel that way, and I don’t like it. It’s as if nothing interests you, everything is a labor. Conversation can bring you out of it, and music, and tennis. And sometimes work.
Everyone’s getting older, people are dying.
During these later-summer evenings Nicollet Mall is a-buzz with food, drink, and conversation, and last night Hilary and I stopped down at the Dakota to hear Patty and the Buttons.
Pianist Tom McDermott started off the show with an almost classical solo set, doing tunes by Scott Joplin, Isaac Albeniz, and Jelly Roll Morton along with a few Cuban tangos. He later joined Patty’s group, tempering his slightly heavy-handed style in a series of jaunty, early jazz numbers with such stirring titles as “Don’t Touch My Leg” and “Washboard Blues.” Sidney Bechet and Django Reinhardt also figured prominently in the playlist.
The band has a good sound, variously mellow and rousing but always swinging and never too intense. The clarinetist, Tony Balluff, has a very fine tone, and Patty’s accordion solos were invariably thoughtful, though his singing leaves a little to be desired. It’s pinched and thin, with very little range. He sounds a little like the Cajun singer D. L. Menard. (Maybe he’d be flattered by the comparison?)
The Dakota’s Foody Nights are a remarkable deal. No cover, a bottle of wine for $10. My only complaint is that you often end up about three inches away from some stranger, looking across your wine glass at his girlfriend, due to the close proximity of the tables.
Patty mocked the Dakota's $40 salmon entree during his often amusing patter, and it occurred to me at one point that the band might sound even better at the Eagle's Club on 26th Street.